Friday, February 29, 2008

Go, Pierre, Go!

Sometimes, reading Bourdieu, you (by which I mean I) just have to stop and admire the sheer theoretical/rhetorical reach of his style. I mean he can really blow the top of your head off sometimes. To wit:

"The nearest equivalence to [the] series of generative schemes bound together by relations of practical equivalence is the system of adjectives (lourd/léger, chaud/froid, terne/brillant, etc.) which are available in French to express the ultimate values of taste and which can be applied equally well to a dish or a school exercise, a play or a painting, a joke or a walk, an accent or a garment, and so on. This practical taxonomy owes its efficacy to the fact that, as is evidenced by the numerous senses recorded in the dictionaries, the meaning of each adjective, and of its relationship with its antonym, is specified in each case in terms of the logic of each of the fields in which it is applied: froid may be synonymous with calme or indifférent, but also with frigide or grave, or again with austère and distant, dur (hard) and sec (dry), plat (flat) and terne (dull), depending on whether it is applied to a man or a woman, a head or a heart, a melody or a tone of voice, a tint or a work of art, a calculation or a fit of anger, etc.; and it will have as many antonyms as it has different senses … It follows that, considered in each of these uses, the pairs of qualifiers which as a system constitute the equipment of the judgment of taste are extremely 'poor,' quasi-determinate, and extremely rich, their indefiniteness predisposing them to inspire or express the sense of the indefinable: on the one hand, each use of one of these pairs is only meaningful in relation to a universe of practice which is different each time, usually implicit, and always self-sufficient, ruling out the possibility of comparison with other universes. On the other hand, the meaning which these pairs are given in a particular field has for harmonics all the meanings which they themselves, or any of the couples that are interchangeable with them to within a matter of nuances, may be given in other fields, i.e. in slightly different contexts." (Outline of a Theory of Practice, 121-122)